Momentum and mistakes.
The Kelowna Christian School Knights and Credo Christian Kodiaks reinforced volleyball's reputation on Saturday as the sport that hinges most precariously on both.
In a peak-and-valley battle for a provincial 1A-division boys championship at Kelowna Secondary school, the Knights had the final surge of unlikely momentum and made two fewer mistakes to claim the B.C. School Sports gold medal.
Trailing 14-10 and looking like they would have to settle for silver when they had been heavily favoured to win it all, the No. 1-ranked Knights, led by their season-long go-to players, pulled out a 16-14 victory in the fifth set against the defending champions from Langley.
"I knew we were in trouble," understated KCS veteran coach Dave Bingham when asked what was on his mind while his team was on the brink of elimination, trailing by four points. "But I also knew we have a lot of guys with heart and character, and I was confident they wouldn't give up. They certainly proved that down the stretch."
A coach in the district for 40 years and at the helm of teams in provincial championships for at least 10 of those, Bingham said he couldn't recall a team ever being behind that many points so late in a gold-medal match and clawing back to win.
"It is very difficult to do - serving while behind and giving up the attack like that. But we had the right people in the right place at the right time. We were very fortunate."
Three of the key players were Ryan Linttell, who had a pair of statement kills - including the championship clincher - down the stretch, 6-foot-5 Keelan Laughren, with two outstanding blocks, and Connor Loewen, who was serving for the final five points.
Linttell deflected much of the credit for his two late kills to his setter.
"Connor did a great job with the sets on both hits. They were right on the money," said Linttell. "It was incredible that he could do that under such pressure."
A member of KCS basketball championship teams, Linttell said Saturday's provincial victory topped them all.
"In basketball, we were pretty much expected to win, but with this team, we had to work so hard and battle all the way to stay ahead of the pack. It's such a fantastic feeling."
His Knights looked as though they would breeze to gold and sweep Credo as they had in two previous meetings this season.
They dominated the first set 25-18. But in the second, they trailed until they pulled into a 17-17 tie. Then, it was that momentum again that propelled last year's bronze medalists to a rapid eight-point staccato to make it 2-0.
It looked like it was all over.
But, led by power hitters Seth Vanderguglen and Ben Togeretz and the experience and tradition that had earned three gold and two silver in the past six years kicked in for Credo.
The Kodiaks overpowered the Knights 25-18, 25-18 to force the match to a fifth-and-deciding set.
"The boys eased up a bit and lost some of their intensity," admitted Bingham. "We stopped hitting the ball and tried to finesse them with a tipping game. We've won all season by hitting the ball hard. We had to do that no matter what."
On the other hand, it was the soft and accurate touch of Loewen serving at the end of the fifth that set the stage for the comeback.
"I just kept saying to myself 'get the next one in, get the next one in'. I did my best to stay focused and not let the nerves get to me. And I trusted my team would do the rest," said the Knights' captain, who has also won provincial championships with the KCS basketball team.
Loewen agreed with Linttell that Saturday's BCSS blue banner win was special.
"Especially after losing a heartbreaker last year in the semifinals and losing in the final to Credo two years ago."
For the Knights, it was their third provincial boys championship, having won in 1999 and 2000.
They had a relatively easy time getting to the gold-medal match, sweeping their three power-pool matches in two straight sets and winning their semifinal against Duncan Christian 3-0. Their lone stumble was in quarter-final play, when the Knights took five sets to defeat Centennial Christian of Terrace.
Meanwhile, in the 2A division championship match on Saturday at KSS, the Langley Christian Lightning defeated the Duchess Park Condors of Prince George 3-2 (23-25, 25-21, 21-25, 25-20, 15-8) to claim gold.
Because of the five-set finals in the 1A and 2A final, the 3A championship match between the Kelowna Owls and Oak Bay didn't get under way until 9:20 p.m.